South Africa born batsmen Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen saw England to 49 for two in their second innings, a lead of 221 runs, at lunch on the third day of the first Test against Pakistan at Trent Bridge here on Saturday.
England have been wobbling at 18 for two after the early loss of captain Andrew Strauss for nought and his fellow left-handed opener Alastair Cook.
But although Trott and Pietersen – who has gone 20 Test innings without a hundred – struggled they survived to both be 18 not out at lunch.
Earlier, Pakistan avoided the follow-on thanks to Umar Gul’s Test-best 65 not out.
Strauss fell for a bizarre third ball duck.
He edged teenage left-arm quick Mohammad Aamer to second slip where Umar Akmal fumbled the chance and then, inadvertently, knocked the ball up as he twisted round.
Mohammad Asif had been a thorn in England’s side with a first innings return of five for 77 that left him on 99 Test wickets.
And the 27-year-old celebrated his 100th wicket in 20 matches at this level on Saturday.
Cook failed to get enough on a glance and was caught down the legside by Kamran Akmal, making good ground.
Pakistan ensured England would have to bat again thanks to Gul’s spirited innings, which saw him score 30 runs off fast bowler Steven Finn’s only two overs on Saturday.
Pakistan resumed on 147 for nine, 207 behind but only eight short of avoiding the follow-on, with Gul 30 not out and Asif unbeaten on nought.
Gul clipped Saturday’s first ball, from James Anderson, off his pads for four.
And next over No 9 Gul’s backfoot cover-driven four off Finn meant Pakistan had avoided the follow-on.
Gul pulled Finn down to the fine leg boundary, to complete a maiden Test fifty off just 40 balls with two sixes and eight fours.
And in Finn’s second over, Gul casually pulled him for two successive sixes.
But Eoin Morgan, whose maiden Test century of 130 had put England on top, ran out non-striker Asif with a direct hit from cover.
Swing bowler Anderson, who took five wickets on his 28th birthday on Friday, finished with five for 54 in 22 overs.